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Will Officials Really Increase Defensive Holding Calls During the Regular Season? 2

Posted on August 17, 2014 by Dean Hybl
New emphasis should reduce the ability of Richard Sherman to hold defenders downfield.

New emphasis should reduce the ability of Richard Sherman to hold receivers downfield.

After watching Richard Sherman and other “top” defensive backs manhandle receivers during the 2013 season while rarely being penalized, the NFL has made a point of emphasis for 2014 to crack down on defenders using their hands to keep receivers from getting into their routes.

So far in the preseason officials have been throwing flags like confetti during a parade, but it is not yet clear whether NFL Week 1 odds should be adjusted to account for the change.

There is no question that in recent years some of the top defensive players in the league have been able to skirt the rules originally created in the late 1970s to keep defensive backs like Hall of Famer Mel Blount from completely dominating the game.

The 1978 rules to limit the ability of defenders to put hands on receivers were the first of a multitude of rules that have been created over the last 36 years that have helped increase offense within the game.

The impact in 1978 was immediate.

In 1977, only one quarterback, Joe Ferguson of the Buffalo Bills at 200.2 yards per game, averaged 200 yards passing per game and only Bob Griese (22) and Ken Stabler (20) had 20 or more touchdown passes.

The 1978 season did also see the addition of two more games, but regardless, the increase in passing offense was quite obvious. Fran Tarkenton led the league averaging 216 passing yards per game and six quarterbacks averaged 200 or more yards per game. In addition, Terry Bradshaw tossed 28 touchdown passes and four others eclipsed 20 touchdown passes.

Of course, that was just the start of the offensive explosion in the NFL. In 1979 Dan Fouts passed for 4,082 yards (255 per game) and 10 eclipsed 200 yards passing per contest.

In 1981 Fouts became the first quarterback in NFL history to average 300 yards per game and half of the teams in the NFL (14 of 28) had a starting quarterback who averaged more than 200 yards per game. Fouts and Steve Bartkowski of the Atlanta Falcons passed for at least 30 touchdowns and 11 quarterbacks had 20 or more touchdown passes.

Those numbers seem a bit pedestrian compared to the current game when 26 of 32 teams had a starting quarterback passing for more than 200 yards per game in 2013, but were important in the evolution of the game.

Surprisingly, even with such prolific offense, some defenses have still been able to have an impact. That was certainly the case in 2013 when the Seattle Seahawks allowed opponents only 14.4 points per contest.

They were especially dominant in the playoffs when they held both the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers nearly 10 points below their season averages to reach the Super Bowl. Read the rest of this entry →

NFL 2014: Pack Your Bags, 49ers are Super Bowl Bound 2

Posted on August 11, 2014 by Peter Getty
It may be early, but one fan already believes he knows which NFC team will be playing in the Super Bowl.

It may be early, but one fan already believes he knows which NFC team will be playing in the Super Bowl.

NFL kickoff 2014 is nearly a month away, too far into the future to hear any predictions about who’s likely to reach the Super Bowl. Especially from a fan touting his own team.

But if my early prediction about the World Cup is any indicator, I deserve an exception.

The San Francisco 49ers are about to embark on a tremendous season.

The offseason has been tumultuous, to say the least. This may ultimately serve to provide the intrinsic motivation the team needs to push them forward for a great start to the season. They’ll need it, to be sure. Coach Jim Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke have been embroiled in a power struggle that hasn’t yet been resolved. The season will need to be a rousing success in order to keep everyone happy.

On top of that, some players are unhappy about contracts, and defense is worrisome due to the ongoing threat of suspension of Aldon Smith due to off-field antics (if you can call a fake bomb threat to LAX ‘antics’). Chris Culliver and Adam Kilgore were arrested in the offseason, and even Colin Kaepernick had a run-in with the law (though was rightly exonerated of any wrongdoing).

So…what’s going right with the 49ers? Read the rest of this entry →

Division I Football Has a Playoff! Now What? 2

Posted on August 10, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Jameis Winston and Florida State seem to be the likely choice to run past the competition and into the first Division I Football Playoff.

Jameis Winston and Florida State seem to be the likely choice to run past the competition and into the first Division I Football Playoff.

After years of waiting and wanting, those who said that Division I college football will be better with a playoff system now have their wish. So, as the first season of the College Football Playoff prepares to get underway, it will be interesting to see if this system calms the critics or creates a new set of detractors.

On the field, the potential candidates for the playoff seem to be many of the same players that have been in the mix over the last few years and you can see the odds at allpro.

Simply by returning their starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston, the Florida State Seminoles are the popular favorites to repeat as national champions. With 13 returning starters and a relatively favorable schedule in which they have only seven challenging games and play four of them at home and one on a neutral site, it seems very likely that Florida State will be among the four teams to earn playoff spots.

It also seems generally safe to pencil Alabama into the playoff mix. However, what is an unknown entering the first year of the playoff is how the SEC, which provides tougher challenges on a weekly basis than many other conferences, will be treated in the likelihood that no-one from the league is undefeated and the conference has multiple teams with just one or two losses.

Besides the Crimson Tide, other SEC teams that certainly have the talent to contend for a playoff spot are Auburn, South Carolina, Georgia and LSU. However, in recent years the conference has also featured a surprise team that wasn’t expected to make a run, but somehow is there at the end. This year that team could possibly be Mississippi, Texas A&M or maybe even the Florida Gators.

With four teams possessing enough talent to contend for the playoffs, the Pac-12 could also be hampered by their top-line depth when looking at getting a team (or two) into the playoff. Oregon and Stanford have been the cream of the conference in recent years, but UCLA and USC both seem to have the talent to contend for the conference title.

While I know this playoff system is supposed to take the politics out of deciding a champion, does anyone really think that is possible? That being said, it would seem extremely unlikely that the Big Ten will not figure a way to get someone into the playoff party.

Ohio State would seem to be the most likely candidate, but after going nearly two seasons undefeated under head coach Urban Meyer they barely defeated Michigan before ending the 2013 season with losses to Michigan State and Clemson. They have only a couple challenging games in 2014, so how they perform in the final weeks of the season could determine whether they are in the playoff.

If the Buckeyes don’t prove worthy, Michigan State could certainly prove to be the Big Ten representative. Wisconsin is a relative long-shot and while Michigan seems highly unlikely to be good enough to reach the playoffs, they could prove to be a spoiler for other Big Ten contenders. Read the rest of this entry →

Sorry Michael Vick, You Are Not A Pioneer 11

Posted on June 22, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Randall Cunningham showed that quarterbacks could be weapons both throwing and running with the football.

Randall Cunningham showed that quarterbacks could be weapons both throwing and running with the football.

It always amuses me when contemporary athletes act like there is no sports history before they bestowed their presence on their particular game.

The most recent athlete to proclaim his own place in sports history is New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick.

Even though he didn’t come into the league until 2001, the 82nd year of the NFL, Vick is certain that he “revolutionized” the game and “was the guy who started” the era of athletic, mobile quarterbacks.

Evidently Vick had never heard of Fran Tarkenton, Roger Staubach, Randall Cunningham or Steve Young, all of whom used both their legs and their arm to forge great NFL careers long before Vick ever took a professional snap.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. Vick is a gifted talent and has been a dynamic running quarterback for more than a decade, but to suggest that he started the trend of athletic quarterbacks just isn’t correct.

Whether the motive of his recent assertions stem from a true lack of historical knowledge or if they are more related to his desire to create his own legacy as his career is winding down, Vick needs to realize that that though he holds the NFL record for rushing yards in a quarterback, he is just one of many quarterbacks in NFL history to use both his arm and legs to achieve success.

Interestingly enough, while Vick has been a solid NFL quarterback, he really isn’t near the top of the list among quarterbacks who combined running and passing to create a dual threat.

First off, it must be understood that just because a quarterback racks up a lot of rushing yards doesn’t mean he is a great dual threat. Read the rest of this entry →

20 Years Ago: A Sports Day Like No Other 2

Posted on June 15, 2014 by Dean Hybl
The O.J. Simpson White Bronco chase on June 17, 1994 captivated a nation though it didn't break any speed records.

The O.J. Simpson White Bronco chase on June 17, 1994 captivated a nation though it didn’t break any speed records.

This past Thursday sports broadcasters spent a great deal of time discussing what a great sports day it was with the start of the U.S. Open Golf Tournament, World Cup Soccer Championships and the fourth game of the NBA Finals. Certainly an exciting day for sports fans and broadcasters alike, but nothing like a day whose twentieth anniversary we celebrate this week.

The primary sports elements on June 17, 1994 were basically the same as twenty years later, but the story lines in some cases were a bit more compelling. Then, of course, what makes that particular day unlike any other sports day was an un-scripted and un-expected event that transcended sports and captured the attention of the entire country.

Even though the United States wasn’t playing until the next day, June 17th was the most important day to that point in U.S. Soccer history with the opening ceremonies of the first World Cup ever held in the United States. President Bill Clinton, Diana Ross, Opera Winfrey and Daryl Hall were among those who participated in the festivities at Soldier Field in Chicago.

While many hoped the World Cup would usher a new era of interest for soccer in America, half a country away in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, the second round of the U.S. Golf Open included the end of an era for an American sports treasure.

Playing in the U.S. Open for the final time, Pennsylvania native Arnold Palmer said goodbye to the national stage on that Friday afternoon by shooting a final round 81 to finish 16 stokes over par. The 1960 U.S. Open Champion had played his first Open at Oakmont in 1953 and on that Friday afternoon 41 years later had an emotional conclusion to his magical career. Read the rest of this entry →

Maybe Some Records Aren’t Meant to be Broken 2

Posted on June 02, 2014 by Scott Huntington

We all know the saying, “records are meant to be broken.” However, that may not be the case for some of the greatest records set in the world of sports. No matter if it is in baseball, football, hockey, basketball or any other sport, some achievements propel individuals or teams into legends. And while time will continue and records are never safe, certain incredible records have a chance to never be broken. Here are some of the feats throughout the sports world that may stand as all the others continue to fall.

511 Wins- Cy Young

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It’s amazing to think about a pitcher winning over 500 baseball games as a pitcher, yet that’s exactly what Young was able to accomplish. It is certainly a different game now with pitchers taking more time off in between starts, making Young’s record seem untouchable. 300 wins may never be reached again by any pitcher, so Young’s 511 mark is surely one of the greatest records in sports. Read the rest of this entry →

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